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If you suddenly decided to keep sheep, what
sort of dog would you get to help round them up? Would you get
a Great Dane, a poodle or a collie? Well of course the obvious
answer is a collie. They are bred for the job. However, if
you already owned the Great Dane and did not have a lot of money,
it would be unkind or even cruel to get rid of him and replace
him with another dog. So you have to work with what you got.
This is not a problem. It's just going to take more time, patience
planning and ingenuity.
A lot of horse owners find themselves in the same predicament. They own a horse, a horse that appeared absolutely right for them when their aspirations were merely to hack or go to the odd riding club event. But now the owner wants to branch out, to learn to train a horse to be correct or even compete in any of the disciplines.
This is the beauty of the classical way of training. This method of teaching will work for any horse. What advantages will you gain?
Your horse will become more obedient. Safer on the roads. Less liable to bolt or leap sideways when startled or over excited.
Your horse will look better because he will be fit, muscled and supple.
Your horse will last longer. The correct muscles will be used through his back therefore the back will stay in tone longer. Not dippy or dropped backed.
Your horse will take you to competitions and because he will be correct he will do well.
Your horse will be lighter in the hand and less tiring to ride.
It will be fun!
OK that's what you will get from the classical method but where do you start?
The answer to that really depends on your horses age, type and conformation. Also your horse's training up to this point must be taken into account. This is where the philosophy of "If it ain't broke, don't mend it" comes in.
I have to make a few assumptions here so that I can share my experience with the majority of you out there and the lessons will be beneficial to the most people. So, let's begin with the basics. Always a good place to start. So here's a preliminary lesson for you to try.
If you are not lucky enough to have an arena, find a field, or any space that is walled, fenced or there is some sort of barrier to form at least one corner. You will need the discipline for yourself and your horse to stay in a predetermined area with corners. I know a trainer, an ex bull fighter in Portugal who has an arena in the middle of a cornfield. The corn stands so high that it actually forms the walls. He is however a bit stuck when the corn is harvested but by then the horse has made a track in the ground, he just pretends the walls are still there. It works for him. Looks a bit strange from a distance though. All you see is a head bobbing up and down above a field of corn.
Assuming your horse is old enough to start training and that he is reasonably fit. The first priority must be to supple him for the training to come and begin to introduce the meaning of the aids. Forward aids and lateral (sideways) aids. So start with work on a long rein. This will allow your horse to stretch his back. All of this is covered in much more detail in the lesson on working in your horse.
Then start to turn him, still on a long rein, a little short of the track in your arena. At the quarter marker, ride him straight, parallel to the track. Once your horse has settled on a straight line, put your inside leg, your right leg if you're on the right rein, slightly behind the girth and ask him to yield to the right. If your horse does not immediately respond, don't worry, this is normal. Just back your leg up with the whip and put a little weight into your outside stirrup. A horse's instinct is always to put his body under your point of balance. If your horse starts to trot, gently bring him back to walk with a combination of rein and voice. As soon as he makes even one lateral step, reward him. He will soon realise what you want and start to move away from your leg. Now start to bring your inside leg to the girth but keep him going sideways. Keep repeating the process on both reins until your horse is freely moving sideways without tension and without you having to hold him back using the reins.
Now start to ride your corners - still on a long rein. You will find that your horse will naturally want to bend because of the leg yield effect of your inside leg. Don't worry about the reins yet. That comes later. You have started to supple and teach him by using your leg and the arena. You will find that in a very short time, if you keep up the exercises, your horse will expect and naturally bend through the corners. A great advantage when you pick up the reins and ask your horse to come onto the aids fully in the future (the subject of another of our lessons)
Good luck with this. Stick with it and have fun. And as always, don't forget to reward your horse when you get a result and he has pleased you. If you decide to follow through our lessons you will be able to do wonders with the ordinary horse which will provide so much more satisfaction for you as the rider and be of lasting benefit to your horse.
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